Classic 60s Precision tone from a PJ bass???

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Little Rascal, Dec 12, 2021.

  1. Little Rascal

    Little Rascal

    Mar 24, 2021
    Hello bass gurus.

    I’m looking for a passive P bass for under 1500 /$that can:
    1. Give me that ventage, classic, Motown, warm woody tone, and
    2. Offer a bit of variety/flexibility with other tones.

    I’ll go into more specifics, with some of the options I’m considering, and explain my needs/thoughts, but if the rest of this is too long to read, those are the two key factors, a versatile bass that can also deliver the classic, old-school P bass tone.

    My wife only wants me to have two basses, and I already have one, a fretless hollow body, for upright stuff. That bass fits my upright needs perfectly, so I only get one more bass to try and serve the rest of my low-end needs. My favorite electric bass tone is the 60s James Jamerson, Carol Kaye, etc. Precision sound. FYI, I know that much of Mr. Jamerson and Mrs. Kaye’s magic came from their technique/heart/hands/soul/flatwound strings. It goes without saying that whatever bass I end up with will be given flatwound strings, lots of muting, etc.

    With this in mind, I could go for something like the Vintera '50s Precision Bass, which is in my price range, and seems like it would be about as old school as you could get. However, I keep thinking, why don’t I go for something like a PJ bass, that way I can have the Precision tone, but also have the Jazz pickup for a little variety, IE, the best of both worlds. The problem is all the PJ options I have found seem to have more modern sounding Precision pickups. I could be wrong about that modern point, the top contenders I have looked at include, the following. I would love to hear anyone’s thoughts about which of these, if any, would offer the best classic P tone. Other recommendations that are not in my list are more than welcome.

    the Fender Aerodyne PJ Jazz bass,
    Fender Special Edition Deluxe PJ Bass,
    FGN Mighty Power,
    The new Fender Boxer Series Precision,
    Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass PJ,
    Fender American Performer Precision Bass, although that one is pushing my budget
    Reverend Decision,
    Reverend Mercalli,
    PRS SE Kingfisher,

    I believe those would deliver on the tonal variety aspect, but would any of them deliver a mellow, Precision tone?

    A few final thoughts. I’m really sorry for how long this is, it’s very hard to get any idea for if a bass would deliver a classic tone, because most people on YouTube are not going for that with demos. I’m hoping to go to several guitar stores, over the next few weeks, to try things out for myself, but it’s hard for me to get to stores, and I know I won’t be able to find many things in person. The stakes for this bass choice are especially high, because I recently sold a Fender Rascal bass that I bought hoping it would be the Swiss army knife I’m looking for. It did deliver a lot of nice tones, but I couldn’t deal with several issues I had with it, including rattling pickups, a bridge that did not seem to align the strings right, etc. I lost some money buying and then re-selling that bass, so I don’t want to make that same mistake again and try my wife’s patience. Because of my experience with the Rascal, (2 different guitar techs could not get it to have the playability I wanted), I would really like to find a quality instrument that is reliable. I’m not good at modifying/setting up instruments. With reliability in mind, I would lean towards the three MIJ options I listed, the Boxer, Aerodyne, and FGN Mighty Power, however, all Boxer demos I have heard give it an extremely modern tone, the Aerodyne also sounds pretty modern, and I can’t seem to find where you can even purchase the FGN. BTW, I don’t really care about old-school-build aesthetics, like chunky necks and I would like something with decent playability; the only reason I would lean towards the Vintera over, say the Player Precision would be the Vintera’s vintage voiced pickup. Perhaps it would make the most since for me to buy something like the Aerodyne and pay for someone to change the pickups for something more ventage sounding.

    It would really mean a lot to me to hear any thoughts at all about any of this ramble. Would I be better off just going for a classic, one pickup Precision, and getting different tone through techniques/effects/mixing? Can the average PJ bass come close to a classic Precision, given flatwounds etc.? I love the Talk Bass community, I have spent countless hours poring over the entire site, and I’m hoping someone here can come to the rescue. Thanks…
    LeFunk Machine likes this.
  2. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    I would go through the classified here. You will get more for your $$$, and likely will get a well cared for bass. You might even find a local sale.

    Also, strings do a lot to give you the tone you want.
    mikeswals likes this.
  3. Little Rascal

    Little Rascal

    Mar 24, 2021
    Thanks for the reply. Yes, strings do have a lot to do with tone, that's why I mentioned flatwound strings in my post. Do you have any thoughts for what kind of bass I should be looking for? I'm all for getting a great deal, but I need to figure out what to buy first.
  4. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    BroDon and Little Rascal like this.
  5. Little Rascal

    Little Rascal

    Mar 24, 2021
    I see you are also from Connecticut, do you have any recommendations for local stores for me to check out? I'm in Hartford.
    lizardking837 likes this.
  6. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Not much left around here. Hot Rod Guitars in Brookfield if you want something built. But seriously, check the classified. I bought my fretless local from a member. Search CT, Massachusetts, and New York. I have a '51 P clone I built, but I'm not sure if that is what you are looking to buy.
    Little Rascal likes this.
  7. LeFunk Machine

    LeFunk Machine

    Sep 12, 2014
    If you decide to buy "used" instead of "new", you might be able to get both P bass and PJ bass. A used Vintera series P bass goes for $650 and a used Fender special edition deluxe PJ bass seafoam pearl goes for $500. For either of both basses, if you want a good deal, you're going to have to wait and search around since great deals are hard to find, and they usually don't last long. Also, I don't know if you do this, but you can always negotiate the price posted.

    Look on talkbass classifieds, ebay, reverb, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace. Sooner or later, you'll find a great deal that you can't pass on.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2021
    Little Rascal likes this.
  8. jd56hawk

    jd56hawk Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    Since you're considering the Mercalli, you might want to check out the Reverend Thundergun.
    Same pickups and electronics but you also get a set neck with a Blackwood Tek fretboard.
    Here's mine.
    (Made me forget all about P basses...this thing is right up there with my USA-made G&L L2000s!)
    No need for the mods so many Fender people do.
    All you need is a nice set of GHS black tapewounds and you're set for life.
    Did I forget to mention it weighs less than 8 lbs?
    Andy must like them, he's made six or seven videos.
    This is what tone is all about.
    Sure, there's only so much you can learn from a video, but this one sold me.

    By the way, just saw a nice used one for a bargain price on Reverb...under $900.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2021
    bkbirge, Justinian and Little Rascal like this.
  9. JW56789

    JW56789 Guest

    Feb 18, 2017
    The age-old PBass or PJ Bass question.


    I've owned both.

    On one hand, there is a zen-like simplcity of the single pickup Precision. And yes, as always on a single-pickup bass, WHERE you strike the strings relative to the pickup makes a big difference: Thicker as you head from the pickup towards the fingerboard end, and twangier as you move from the pickup back to the bridge. That may suit what you're after.

    But I can tell you it's just not quite the same thing as mixing in a second pickup already sitting back towards the bridge . . . . which you may or may not like.

    Personally, I prefer a PJ for most things. If I could only have one, that's what my personal taste would lead me towards. On the other hand, in some installations, even if you use only the P pickup, it may not sound the same as a single pickup Precision. Here's why:

    For some, and with some electronics, you never completely eliminate the Jazz pickup. There's several reasons how this can happen. Generally, a correct installation with two (separate) volumes or a pickup selector switch will generally keep them apart. Sometimes installations that use one volume and one balancer sometimes may exhibit a small amount of 'bleed'. I have one like that with a balancer, I don't think I hear it, and even if there may incrementally be some tiny percent, it's worth it for the convenience for me.

    I grew up with that 60's tone, absorbing lots of Carol Kaye, Joe Osborne, Duck Dunn, David Hood, all those guys. I KNOW that sound. Chased it for years. My observation:

    Going down the flatwound, thumpity-thump tone quest is not for me. Granted, I don't want that Rotosound, twangy clank, but I need a little more tone to begin with. For me, that usually comes down to good, smooth pickups that aren't super aggressive, coupled with nickel roundwounds.

    For me, this is a good starting point. I may need a little more tone I will never coax out of flats, and nickles with a light touch and a few hours on them will settle right down. On a Fender-ish bass in the traditional woods (alder, maple neck, rosewood board if you prefer), and you're right in that ballpark. Tweak your technique and amp to suit, and you're there. Ash bodies add a little definition if the weight is agreeable, and IF it's not too raucous, as some ash bodies will just bark back at you.

    In Fenders (and your budget) I'd recommend:

    American Performer Precision Bass® | Electric Basses (

    This is all the traditional woods, the J pickup placement is right, a lighter bridge with lightweight keys. I have a bass with Yosemites and they're fine. And separate volumes if you want to solo the Precision pickup. I run mine with mostly P pickup, and dial in as little or as much J pickup to add edge and a little more definition if the situation calls for it. Get the sunburst and change out to a tort pickguard to be real OG, and there you are. Find a barely used one and save some $$.

    On the other hand, for far less money, I'd get the Squier 60's Precision (in sunburst), find a first-class guitar tech and have it routed and add a Jazz pickup and extra volume soldered in. It's already an alnico magnet, a great bass for not much money, you could start with it and see if you need a Jazz pickup . . . or not. I'm not crazy about the Affinitys . . . .

    I understand that you're not into modding, etc. But I would urge you to learn to do your own setups and basic maintenance. I taught myself years ago (there's no shortage of great how-to's on YouTube), and I consider it absolutely vital to my playing. I'm fortunate to live in Nashville where there are great guitar techs, and I know where my knowldege ends and when to go see them. But without my being able to get my axes to play exactly like I want them, I would have a far harder time, and be at the mercy of repair guys, some of whom will give a bass a short shrift. Other places in the country, some have no clue WHY you would want a bass with low, easy-to-play action. Knowing the DIY, you skip all that !
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2021
    Little Rascal and jd56hawk like this.
  10. JW56789

    JW56789 Guest

    Feb 18, 2017
    I forgot. One of the best 'turn-key' 4-string PJ's out there, and completely overlooked:

    SURVEYOR '87 - The ESP Guitar Company (

    A reissue with alder body, maple neck and a gen-u-wine ebony fingerboard, real Seymour Vintage PJ's and Gotoh hardware. This little axe is a gem (provided you like either white or black). Probably a bit brighter than the Fenders, but depending on amps and strings, that's really relative.
  11. Little Rascal

    Little Rascal

    Mar 24, 2021
    Wow, thank you so much J, for all of your thoughts, and especially for pointing me towards the SURVEYOR '87. I had not come across those at all. I can't believe it's a PJ with vintage voiced pickups for my price range. I'm just reading about it right now, but that could be exactly what I have been dreaming of.

    I know what you mean about zen like simplicity; even though my fretless has two pickups I pretty much only ever use one, same thing with my G&L guitar, which has a lot of tonel options. However, I think I will be in a much more Zenish place if I can feel confident that this second bass will surve all of my needs, and I can have a happy wife, happy life. Thanks again.
  12. Corto14


    Feb 6, 2019
    Yamaha bbp34 with old roundwound strings can do the job pretty good.
    Maybe it’s not 100% accurate but what you loose in accuracy (Does this word exist?) you get in versatility
    Even better the old series (BB424,1024), which has a more vintage tone.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2021
    el jeffe bass and Little Rascal like this.
  13. Bent77

    Bent77 Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2013
    Desert, Colorado
    I saw your list of basses above. To me the Aerodyne has a more modern sound, and you may like to test drive it before you buy
  14. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Whatever feels good and put a Lindy Fralin pickup in it.
  15. Little Rascal

    Little Rascal

    Mar 24, 2021
    Thanks for the comment. The Aerodyne might be my top choice right now, because I know I can, in fact, try one in person, plus it being MIJ and a good price. Those would be the two reasons I would choose it over the SURVEYOR '87, which I'm not seeing locally, and there does not even seem to be many YouTube demos of that one.

    Would you say that it sounds more modern than the Fender Special Edition Deluxe PJ Bass, the MIM PJ option?

    FYI, I know that buying used is often the best way to go, I got an amazing deal on an American made Mint G&L guitar. However, The used Fender Rascal that I just lost money on, has put a bit of a damper on me trying another used bass. Also, I'm blind, so I worry about missing flaws in used basses. It looks like the Yamaha new is at the top of my price range, and I'm not sure if I could try that one either, but it is an interesting option.
    Bent77 likes this.
  16. jd56hawk

    jd56hawk Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    You're talking the nice Aerodyne, right?
  17. Little Rascal

    Little Rascal

    Mar 24, 2021
  18. Bent77

    Bent77 Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2013
    Desert, Colorado
    I loved the bass, but not the tone (for me)
    I haven’t tried the other options you listed, but I’ve played the G&L. G&L makes an exceptional product at the American made level
    Little Rascal likes this.
  19. My thought on this is with regard to the basses used on Motown recordings and the tone, that sound you are hearing on those recordings went through a process you are not likely to duplicate. That tone, recording was mastered for anolog use on am radio, as well as recordings on vinyl. I’m not saying you can’t get close enough to make one happy, but a dead on copy? Just remember, the bass was just one part of many that made that tone.

    I’ve been playing Motown covers live and recording them for about 50 years. The last 45 of those using roundwounds on several PBs. What I found is you can get enough of the Motown sound out of just about any MIA PB out there to make your band mates happy, and with no objections from producers and sound engineers. You just need a good amp with a good EQ.

    LeFunk Machine and donhank like this.
  20. Little Rascal

    Little Rascal

    Mar 24, 2021
    Thanks for your thoughts on the Aerodyne. Something that sounds too modern is one of my main concerns, along with build quality.

    I've looked at some G&L options, but it seems like their main passive PJ bass has no tone nob, which I don't like. I believe a new american made one would be out of my price range. Are there any PJ or PP options that include tone controles that I should look for, used?

    I say 1500 is the top of my price range, but that might be stretching it a bit. My wife seems surprised when I even mention 800 dollar options.
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